‘Double y’im dees’

Christopher Tayler

  • Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
    Canongate, 307 pp, £16.99, July 2012, ISBN 978 0 85786 438 3

The main thing that Googling will tell you about Ben Fountain is that he’s – depending on your point of view – a slow learner, a model of staying power and resilience, a maniacal perfectionist, or a living vindication of underachieving literary househusbands. That’s because the journalistic handle on him, established by Malcolm Gladwell in a New Yorker piece, is that he wrote fiction full-time for 18 years before publishing his first book. In 1988, aged 30, he left a job as a property lawyer in Dallas, Texas, after his wife had their first child and was made a partner in her law firm. He sold a few stories, went on research trips to Haiti, wrote a novel he wasn’t pleased with, picked the kids up every day, got ditched by his agent, lost and recovered his confidence, and in 2006 published Brief Encounters with Che Guevara, a story collection, to great acclaim. Being cast as a Cézanne-like late-blooming genius in Gladwell’s piece two years later wasn’t the last of his professional tribulations. Soon after the article was published his editor talked him into jettisoning a novel he’d worked on for six years. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, his first published novel, is the third he’s written.

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